The A.V. Club’s cautiously optimistic 2012-13 Bucks season preview
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Despite being shortened by the NBA lockout, the 2011-12 Milwaukee Bucks season seemed to be one of the longest, most agonizing campaigns in the team’s recent history. Our initial optimism was quickly dashed as Andrew Bogut missed much of the early proceedings due to bereavement leave before ultimately missing the remainder of the year following his annual season-ending injury. Meanwhile, Stephen Jackson was notably absent from the court as well, having been relegated to Scott Skiles’ doghouse as a result of being an all-around terrible person. Somehow, Milwaukee managed to trade both damaged pieces to Golden State at the deadline for an attractive haul that included scoring threat Monta Ellis and big man Ekpe Udoh.
But alas, the hole dug by injury, insubordination, dressing seven small forwards, and allowing Drew Gooden to play center (and play at all) proved too deep for the Bucks to climb out. With a reloaded and healthy roster, not to mention a full 82-game schedule, Milwaukee holds the promise of being much better this season—and not only because last season could’ve gone much worse for the franchise. Here are just a few reasons The A.V. Club thinks the 2012-13 Milwaukee Bucks are your ticket to
amazing potential 5- to 8-seed-caliber basketball.
Along with now-undisputed fan-favorite Brandon Jennings, the aforementioned Ellis rounds out a scoring duo that, on paper, is in the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference. Milwaukee is now equipped with two guards capable of averaging 20 points a night. However, there’s still only one basketball in use at any given time, so hopefully the set of shoot-first players can co-exist in the long-term. To do so, one of them (likely Jennings, based on Ellis’ track record) will need to learn to transfer some points into the assist column.
Addressing the team’s most evident weakness from last season, Bucks GM John Hammond made sure to make some moves to account for Milwaukee’s utter lack of a true center. First, Milwaukee sent the end of its bench (Shaun Livingston, trick shot aficionado Jon Brockman, former Badger John Leuer, and the 12th pick in the 2012 draft) to Houston in exchange for veteran big man Samuel Dalembert, the 14th overall pick and a future second-round pick. Then, Hammond added depth at the post by enticing 2000-04 Buck
great Joel Przybilla “The Vanilla Gorilla” to return to Milwaukee. Should those two—with their 22 combined seasons of experience—falter down the stretch, the 6-10 Udoh (who’s been interactive with his new fans), a coming-of-age Larry Sanders, and, if necessary, Drew Gooden can bring something to the Bucks block party down in the paint.
Also capable of sliding down to center or wearing a number of other caps (as evidenced by his breakout 2011-12 season) is Ersan Ilyasova. Though the free agent was open to taking other offers (including returning to play in his native Turkey), the power forward opted to stay in Milwaukee to the tune of $40 million over five years. If the versatile Ilyasova can echo his nightly average of 13 points, 1.2 assists, and nearly a steal and a block per contest he put up last season, he’ll go a long way to earning that paycheck (and the name rights to Squad 6-replacement “Ersan’s Fan Zone”) while helping Milwaukee contend.
Rearing the deer
While the Ellis/Udoh and Dalembert trades and signing Ilyasova and Przybilla point to the Bucks front office wanting to take immediate advantage of an especially weak and Dwight Howard-less Eastern Conference, Hammond has made no secret of his intent to build sustained success by siring a group of solid youngsters to take over when bigger names ultimately depart. Aside from Lamb, the Bucks took 21-year-old North Carolina standout John Henson, who averaged 13.7 points and close to three blocks per game last season. Second-year player Tobias Harris (who’s just 20) looks to improve upon his rookie season in which he averaged only about 11 minutes played and five points per game. And let’s not forget that Jennings just turned 23 last month.
It might not have a familiar cast, but this Bucks team should actually be a competitor that offers BMO Harris Bradley Center Or Whatever It Is Now patrons a group that’s capable of reaching the playoffs, and laying the groundwork for a positive future, too. That failing, maybe Bango will jump from space and do a reverse dunk or something.